Soundfreaq Sound Platform

My music is important to me but so is my ability to use my phone and it’s this conflict which has arisen from my switch to the iPhone which prevents me from enjoying both.

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Whenever I take the time to dock my iPhone to a speaker dock, I’m having to undock to respond to a message, read an e-mail or take a call. It’s disruptive and it’s inconvenient, so when I heard that Soundfreaq had come up with a potential solution, my eyes widened and my brows lifted. The Sound Platform from Soundfreaq is a £199.99 speaker dock, and for all intents and purposes, it looks like a traditional system with a docking connector in the middle, basic controls, a speaker grille and pretty lights. However, don’t let appearances deceive because if you dig a bit deeper, there’s a bit of magic in the Soundfreaq which may just change the way you listen to your music.

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Soundfreaq have included a Bluetooth radioset and licensed its functionality through the appropriate channels at Apple to ensure maximum compatibility and seamless integration with the iOS Bluetooth and App ecosystem.

What this means in practical terms is the ability to stream your audio from your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices without your device ever leaving your side. And the icing on the cake? You have complete control over the playlist as well as volume and equaliser settings. The dollop of ice cream on top is the ability to power the Sound Platform up and down entirely from your iOS device. So you never actually need to approach the speaker dock – it’s complete control and management from iOS.

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I have a love-hate relationship with glossy black. For the Sound Platform, it gives a high-end classical look with a serious undertone. But it all gets ruined as soon as a finger touches it. Sounfreaq have gone for a very straight-edged design with a flat surface at the base to position its controls. Touch-sensitive buttons are used for controlling playback functions and machined metal dials control the equaliser settings. To the right side is a small spring door that is used to store the included remote. Inside the compartment, a hidden magnet keeps the remote loosely fixed to the side of the speaker. Orange LED accents are used behind the docking port, for the display and for a bit of gratuitous mood lighting. I’m not convinced the compartment is necessary for the remote storage – granted its neater than just having it magnetically stuck to the side but the compartment just doesn’t fit right with the rest of the design. It’s a minor issue and on the whole the simple design works.

On docking your iOS device for the first time, it will prompt you to download the Soundfreaq app. It’s not mandatory to do this and my iPhone 4 worked fine without it when docked. Without the app though, it does hinder your ability to control the volume when operating it through the Bluetooth wireless A2DP system. The iPhone volume controls would allow you to make adjustments to volume from the device, but to control the volume on the speaker dock you will need the app. The app may seem a bit clumsy in terms of controlling your playlist. It lets you browse your iPod app playlists but you have to add it to the apps own playlist rather than just taking the playlists you already have and using those.

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Out of the box, the Sound Platform does need ‘running in’ as my first listen was a little underwhelming. You may also want to ensure that the UQ3 is set to on for maximum enjoyment. Without it, the Sound Platform is flat and lacks the ‘oomph’ it needs to make it appreciative of the music its playing. With UQ3, life is somehow injected into the music through some clever manipulation of the audio frequencies. I definitely prefer UQ3 switched on, but a criticism of this feature is when you’re listening to music quietly, there’s a very audible hissing noise in the background. Once you switch it off, the hissing disappears and you may actually prefer to listen to the Sound Platform in this mode as UQ3 seems to make a difference only at the higher volumes.

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The Soundfreaq Sound Platform has some killer features that I wish every speaker dock has. Wireless audio streaming from any A2DP compatible device makes it a very practical and easy to use stereo system. Combine that with great room-filling sound without distortion and you’ve got yourself a good all-rounder that can be used without your phone having to leave your side.

Soundfreaq Sound Platform is available exclusively in the UK from John Lewis.

2011-02-21 Onwah Tsang

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